The Internet has created a virtual world that transcends physical and political boundaries making a foundation for global community. With everyone having the freedom to put forward her (or his) views and thoughts, its perhaps not wrong to say that it is democracy at its best. The Internet and its history is an interesting one, as is that of the organizations that have been created to ensure that certain norms and standards are maintained on the Internet.
History of the Internet and of IETF
In 1969 the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) initiated a project on packet switching technology and the ARPANET covered the U.S. By the end of the 1970s it had reached out to the other continents as well. The Internet Control and Configuration Board was founded in 1979 and its task was to oversee the design and development of protocols within the internet. In 1983 the organization was renamed as the Internet Activities Board or IAB, with its purpose remaining the same, it was now committed to creating and certifying standards for use on the internet. The Internet Architect was the title given to the IAB Chairman. Now the IAB have numerous sections dealing with different architectural or protocol matters.
IPv6 The ARPANET was divided into the ARPANET and MILNET. While the former handled research and development the latter was used for unclassified military purposes. The TCP/IP became the official protocol suite and the Internet as we know it today was born. While in its infancy the Internet was dependent on government funding but by the end of the 1990s its commercial value was evident.
However with this increase the commercial Internet service providers and a central administration was found missing. This situation posed a great threat to the Internet and there was a growing need for Internet standards.
The Internet society or the ISOC was created in 1992 and became home to the IETF and Internet process standardization. The ISOC supports the IETF and the IRTF.
The IETF was formed in 1986 and in its inception it was a platform to coordinate contractors for the U.S. Defense Advanced projects Agency (DARPA) and the Internet core gateway system. The most important functions of the IETF are to develop and select standards within the Internet protocol suite, and to coordinate with the groups involved in technical development of new protocols. In its current state the IETF has taken on an international form and includes designers, vendors, operators and researchers dedicated in the running the Internet smoothly and developing its structure.
The IETF mission is as follows:
- To identify operational and technical problems in the Internet and propose solutions to them.
- To specify the development and use of protocols and internet architecture and find solutions to technical problems.
- To allow smooth transfer of technology from the IRTF to the international Internet community.
- Creating a platform for the exchange of crucial information between users, researchers, vendors, operators, agency contractors and network managers.
The IETF has working groups that essentially cover nine function areas. Each area is lead by Area Directors, who together with the Chairman of IETF form the Internet Engineering Steering Group or the IESG. The IETF groups comprise of the following areas of function:
- Applications: User area Service
- IP: Next Generation
- Operational Requirements
- Network Management
The Working Groups (WG) function in any of the nine areas and have a focused goal rather than a broad and generic problems. Working sessions are common to the WGs and this is where most of the work gets done. To become a standard a protocol has to be proven and working. The WGs thrive on rough consensus and there arent any strict rules for the way problems may be handled. The result of the WGs work is published by IETF in Internet drafts and as Requests for Comments (RFC). While the Internet Drafts are basically working documents, the RFC are in essence the literatures of the Internet. These provide a record of the IAB and are edited and documented. Fascinatingly anyone who is interested in and understands the proceedings of the WGs is welcome to make their contributions.
RFC – (Request For Comments)
RFCs can be divided into to four categories:
- Historic RFC: These include those that have historic importance but may not be of working importance at the present date. Examples of historic RFC include the Border Gateway Protocol version 3 (BGP-3; RFCs 1267 and 1268).
- Informational RFCs include all kinds of information about the Internet including historical data, tutorials, etc. A standards group or individual outside the IESG produces these informational RFCs.
- Experimental RFC covers work on the Internet still in the research and experimental stage and not part of a functional service.
- Standards Track includes RFCs that are expected to become Internet standards.
It is the aim of the IETF to make Internet working and functioning smooth and of superior quality. And with its standards and engineering papers it hopes to motivate designers, users and operators to use and manage the Internet effectively and to the best of its capability.